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Women in tech: advocating for advocacy

Adizah Tejani
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Adizah Tejani says the tech sector must do more to bridge the gender gap

Just 15% of our members at Level39 are women.

While we are proud that this is higher than the industry standard of 9%, we still don’t think it is good enough.

To try to counter the imbalance, we’ve been supporting women in tech by hosting events such as the Code First Girls course, which was attended by more than 70 female graduates, Women Shift Digital including speakers such as BBC Click’s Kate Russell and private sector group meetings such as Tech London Advocates’ Women in Tech group.

But we believe we can do more – and we will.

Changing perceptions

It takes time and commitment over years to create such change.

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We have started but there is still a long way to go. We believe that the best way to dispel the myths about women in technology is to actively advocate and champion women that are doing amazing things in our industry.

If you are a woman in tech when was the last time you told your story? How did you get to where you are?

When I’ve said to people I work in technology, they often say I have broken every single preconception they’d held about the ‘type’ of people that work in technology.

This perception will only change if more advocacy and championing occurs across all layers of the ecosystem.

Remember your roots

The tech industry has an appetite and a need for female advocates. Many universities are crying out for their alumnae to engage in some way.

I’ve gone back to my university almost every year since I graduated four years ago to speak to students. So go and dig out that email address, and even if you have to take time off I urge you to do it.

It is especially important to engage young women, as the reality is many do not know the technology industry is an option.

I went back to my secondary school in Mile End to speak at assembly.

I picked stories that I knew they’d talk about in the playground: meeting Bill Gates because of Twitter, checking into the Facebook UK office on Facebook and being given my first website project.

Forward guidance

Actively collaborating through mentorship and sponsorship is also key.

Claire Cockerton, the Deputy Head of Level39, is my sponsor and mentor – one of many within and outside the technology sector, both men and women.

It’s especially important to engage young women, as the reality is many do not know the tech industry is an option.

I know that mentoring is an old concept, but it’s a good one. We never stop learning, and what better way to learn about the highs and lows of tech, than to be mentored by someone who has experienced them – maybe even invented some of them!

I have mentors who are investors, VC’s, professors at top universities. Mentorship can take many forms – from face-to-face coffees to email updates.

Don’t ask, don’t get

It sounds like basic advice, but I find many young women starting out are not asking the question.

If you do not ask you do not get, and research shows that women are, particularly in the workplace, less likely to ask for what they want. So we need to proactively encourage young women in order to help them make the most of their opportunities.

The technology sector must show that it is a vibrant, creative industry for all types of women who are interested in using technology to solve problems.

From reaching out to students of Code First Girls, to proactively supporting other women – there is a lot that both men and women can do to help change the perceptions of what it is like to be a women in our industry.

Adizah Tejani is Deputy Manager at Level39 in Canary Wharf.

As part of the launch of our new print edition, we’ll be publishing a series of guest columns and commentary celebrating women in tech. Got something to add? Get in touch with our editorial team.

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